Workplace Mediation

            Pete Colby - Director and Lead Mediator


If you came via the home page you will already have heard us talk about the main three main benefits of mediation when resolving workplace issues - not least the stress experienced by employees, managers and HR. Not to mention the significant cost to the business and the enormous amount of time wasted in formal grievances - usually months, sometimes years. Most mediations take a day.

 

We really do see formal grievances as failure. If an employee's issues can eventually be resolved through a formal grievance procedure, they could have been resolved informally without the need for formal meetings and HR taking notes - as soon as employees get to that stage, they're taking positions which become entrenched.

 

The reality is that sometimes employees seem to have no sense of rationale - what they're expecting seems to be crazy or unreasonable, but do you really know what their issues are? We do some virtual half day training on how to avoid formal grievances using some basic mediation techniques - you can download some further details here.

 

Whether it's through mediation, or alternatives such as facilitated conversations, as an external and independent organisation we can invest the time and ask the questions (confidentially) that you can't - we can often get to the root cause much more efficiently due to our independence and impartiality. 

Workplace Mediation
Workplace Mediation

Workplace Mediation

Alternatives to Workplace Mediation

Workplace mediation is by far our most commonly used methodology for resolving disputes - usually between two employees, and sometimes more. These are absolutely confidential and without prejudice. A few examples of scenarios commonly requiring workplace mediation are:-

As a recommended grievances outcome

Manager / employee relationships

Performance issues

Health & Safety

Bullying & harassment claims

Our name is Pragmatism for a reason, and we recognise that mediation is not always the best solution to the issue - often it's just a facilitated conversation that's required - or something else. We always talk through the issues and suggest ways forward that may work best. A few examples are:-

Teams not working effectively

Group grievances

Employee engagement / communication issues

Frustrations between teams and managers

Absence management

Workplace Mediation
Workplace Mediation

An Example

We could pick hundreds of examples, but just to choose one we were asked to mediate between a line manager and an employee, both of whom were suffering from mental health issues as a result (which we see all the time).


The employee was feeling victimised by the manager following performance management discussions - consequently she went off sick due to work-related stress and also submitted a formal grievance.


The manager himself was heavily impacted by the grievance and was losing sleep and had been prescribed anti-depressant medication by his GP. Having read the grievance, he himself lodged a counter-grievance against his team member due to the attack against his character and for bringing into question his professionalism.


Over a period of more than 12 months the company investigated both grievances and heard appeals from both employees. Whilst some small elements were found, neither grievance was upheld. The HR Director then called us as they needed mediation - both employees needed to work together professionally, but they had not spoken for over a year.


The mediation was very emotional for both employees, but after some difficult conversations separately they got together by mid-afternoon and addressed their misunderstandings. They then formulated and agreed a written plan which addressed various issues such as performance, some development and how they would deal with issues again should they arise.


We followed up a month later (as we do with all mediations) and things were going well for them both - and the HR Director was grateful for her and her team not having to spend even more time on the issue.


Alternatives to Mediation

Our name is Pragmatism for a reason, and we recognise that mediation is not always the best solution to the issue - often it's just a facilitated conversation that's required - or something else. We always talk through the issues and suggest ways forward that may work best. A few examples are:-

Teams not working effectively

Group grievances

Employee engagement / communication issues

Frustrations between teams and managers

Absence management

An Example

We're often called about situations where mediation isn't the right answer - whether it be because there isn't a formal dispute, or it might be that mediation is considered to be too formal due to the need to sign an agreement to mediate (see our questions and answers for more detail).

 

On one occasion we were contacted by a professional organisation who had a number of teams who needed to work cohesively, but there were all kinds of issues - some individuals didn't get on with others in other teams, some teams were working against other teams and in some instances people within the same team were working against each other.

 

This was more of a cultural / employee engagement challenge therefore we didn't utilise the mediation process as such, but we did use a number of the skills and techniques that we use on a daily basis but through facilitated conversations.

 

Initially some conversations needed to be facilitated between individuals and small groups of individuals due to the nature of the issues, and it was clear that jumping straight into a large group session was not the best way forward.

 

Having facilitated these smaller sessions, we then facilitated a full-group session where the teams got to know each other better as people and then worked together on formulating their joint plans to work differently going forward - including how they would deal with issues when they went wrong. 

 

The final day was tiring but incredibly productive, and those involved were pleased that they'd been able to have the proper conversations that they'd been unable to have over a number of years.



Trade Unions / Employee Reps

Resolution Procedures

We have decades of experience working with Trade Unions and Employee Representatives for unrepresented organisations, and we firmly believe that their role is absolutely essential and critical to the success of every organisation.

 

We see organisations underestimate the criticality and importance of effective employee relations all the time, and when they start to improve the effectiveness in this area the results are astronomical.

 

Many managers and HR professionals really struggle to work with Employee Representatives effectively, and understandably they also get very frustrated. The same frustrations also exist for Employee Representatives though and often what's missing are the proper conversations that need to take place, and that's where we're often asked to help.

Workplace Mediation

An Example

We were called by a large manufacturing organisation whose senior managers were beside themselves. The Trade Union were about to ballot for industrial action over pay at a time which would significantly damage the business. This would then affect profitability and jobs would be lost as a result. The management team felt that the Trade Union were not acting in the best interest of their members and they wanted us to get them to "see sense".

 

We talked to the Trade Union who had numerous issues with the management team, from a lack of communication through to not following through on numerous agreed actions - not to mention the pay dispute itself. 

 

We embarked on a number of 'partnership development' sessions and, after averting any kind of industrial action, we facilitated the development of better working relationships at a senior level and, critically, at a first line manager level. We established achievable communication and employee engagement frameworks and drove accountability at all levels.

 

The industrial action was not about pay - that was just the straw that broke the camel's back for the Trade Union. Once the teams became more aligned through their understanding of each other as people, and the roles they played, life got much better. There are still challenges - but they now work together and work out solutions themselves.

It probably won't surprise you to learn that we're not big fans of traditional grievance policies, which only tickle around the edges at half-hearted attempts for informal resolution. They then jump into formal grievance procedures, which entrench people even further in their positions and result in lots of investigations, formal hearings, official notetaking and a 'judgement' at the end. Then comes an appeal and it happens all over again.

 

In our experience formal grievance hearings rarely close out issues and the root cause problems still remain. We work with organisations to re-think their policies and procedures, more towards an "issue resolution" policy which enables proper conversations to happen early and increasing the chances of resolution. The benefits in terms of reduced stress and more valuable utilisation of time are enormous - as are the cost savings of both. 


Dispute Resolution Procedures

It probably won't surprise you to learn that we're not big fans of traditional grievance policies, which only tickle around the edges at half-hearted attempts for informal resolution. They then jump into formal grievance procedures, which entrench people even further in their positions and  result in lots of investigations, formal hearings, official note-taking and a 'judgement' at the end. Then comes an appeal and it happens all over again.

 

In our experience formal grievance hearings rarely close out issues and the root cause problems still remain. We work with organisations to re-think their policies and procedures, more towards an "issue resolution" policy which enables proper conversations to happen early and increasing the chances of resolution. The benefits in terms of reduced stress and more valuable utilisation of time are enormous - as are the cost savings of both. 

Workplace Mediation

An Example

We were called by a large manufacturing organisation whose senior managers were at breaking point. The Trade Union were about to ballot for industrial action over pay at a time which would significantly damage the business. This would then affect profitability and jobs would be lost as a result. The management team felt that the Trade Union were not acting in the best interest of their members and they wanted us to get them to "see sense".


We talked to the Trade Union who had numerous issues with the management team, from a lack of communication through to not following through on numerous agreed actions - not to mention the pay dispute itself. 


We embarked on a number of 'partnership development' sessions and, after averting any kind of industrial action, we facilitated the development of better working relationships at a senior level and, critically, at a first line manager level. We established achievable communication and employee engagement frameworks and drove accountability at all levels.


The industrial action was not about pay - that was just the straw that broke the camel's back for the Trade Union. Once the teams became more aligned through their understanding of each other as people, and the roles they played, life got much better. There are still challenges - but they now work together and work out solutions themselves.

An Example

A HR Director contacted us after his team had attended our half-day training on avoiding formal grievances. They wanted to know more about the changes they could make to their grievance procedure as a result.

 

We subsequently worked with the management team and the Trade Union as they entered consultations regarding a proposal to change their procedure. Management were frustrated at the number of grievances raised and the number of levels within their procedure. The Trade Union were protective of the three formal stages within their procedure and did not trust management's motives for wanting to change.

 

We helped the management and Trade Union teams to start from a blank sheet of paper and decide what they wanted - not in terms of a policy, but in terms of the results. They were surprised how common their goals were. They were even more surprised how common their frustrations with the current policy and way of working were.

 

Working together, the joint team put together a revised policy and process which tackled their frustrations and addressed their reservations. The emphasis was on issue resolution through proper conversations - they also trained a number of internal mediators to enable this (not just from the HR team - some were from the shop floor, staff and management). By doing this they have massively reduced the time, cost and stress which their previous process caused.


Working Virtually and Face-to-Face

Before the world changed in 2020, we were already working with clients virtually due to the many benefits of doing so - especially when things are extremely urgent and it's difficult for people to be in the same venue. Although some situations must be dealt with in-person, sometimes customers choose a hybrid of virtual and face-to-face, and often they prefer one or the other. We're happy to discuss what works best for you and to chat through the benefits of each approach. 



WE'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!

If you'd like to know more about the services we offer, or you have a question, please don't hesitate to call or email us. Alternatively, complete the enquiry form opposite and we'll respond quickly.


  Pragmatism (UK) Ltd

     4 Cross Street

     Beeston

     Nottingham

     NG9 2NX


  0333 987 5185


  admin@pragmatism-uk.co.uk


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